How to Connect With Your Audience Better
We have all heard a great orator at least once in in our life time. Be it a court room scene in a movie or a ‘Yes We did’ speech by former president of The United States, there is always an element which differentiates a lecture from a spell-bound discourse. Addressing a gathering is one event that we cannot evade all our lives. It need not necessarily be an induction or introductory speech; it can be as simple as a toast at your best friend’s wedding. The bottom line is there will be one inescapable instance where addressing crowd will be a task you have to do. It is better to be prepared for such an event lest you bear the brunt end of strong disinterest.
Delivery skills are powerful in driving and riveting an audience’s attention. There can be an endless debate on whether style trumps over substance or vice-versa but what makes a speech great is building an emotional connect. To understand this let’s consider the art of public speaking embodied by Former American President, Barack Obama.
Learning from Obama on the key to connect with audience better
On dissecting each and every speech made by Obama during his tenure and campaign, there are three reasons why he is and will always be the greatest speaker.
- Use of creative language: Obama transports his listeners to another place. A good speech has one clear purpose and Obama is the master of delivering the purpose with ease and grace. He has the knack to differentiate a problem from the solution: good from the evil, stirring the audience to trust him and hold on to every word he delivers. He makes use of artful phrases like, “The grit…of ordinary people” or “And every once in a while, a pitch is going to come right over the home plate that can knock you out for a home run. But you don’t swing at every pitch.”
- Be a repeater: Memorizing was the method of learning when we learnt math tables in school. While you cannot repeat concepts while writing, during public speaking, it is your brother in arms. There is rhetorical technique called Anaphora which it relies on the use of the same phrase in the beginning of every successive clause. When an idea is rephrased and restated, it triggers familiarity inciting acceptance. An instance of the use of Anaphora:
“You’ll hear the determination…of a young field organizer
You’ll hear the pride in the voice of a volunteer…
You’ll hear the deep patriotism in the voice of the military spouse…”
The same statement could be made in a single complex sentence using coordinating conjunctions but it will have the same impact. Want to drive an idea in, establish an emotional connection and repeat words to emphasize on the positive outcome.
- The golden rule of Three: Rule of three is the basis of remembrance. Threes are embedded subconsciously into our culture. When it comes to making a speech, there are three important sections: introduction, body and conclusion. Repetition again becomes powerful here because it construes a message as entertaining and memorable. Even Obama’s sentence structures, the ones which hit the connect, are in three parts.
“Our economy is recovering. A decade of war is ending. A long campaign is now over”
“We believe in a generous America, in a compassionate America, in a tolerant America”
The points cited above are the most important influences on deciding the strength of the connection you make with the audience. It is impossible to frame a speech like the former President’s because his are of the nature of a public address while ours might not be as grave. But, the key essence of his style can easily be infused into any speech.
There are other subtle tricks which attract the audience’s attention, these are:
- Speak what the audience wants to hear: If the topic is left open to choose, speaking about a relevant issue will have more eager listeners than one sided discourse on your personal interest. There needs to be a sense of involvement.
- Put the negatives forward: An audience will connect only when they identify with the speaker. Opening up to the audience about human errors or insecurities will have them listen to you with a piqued interest for now you are relatable and not an outsider.
- Great speakers are fabulous story tellers: As an audience you would rather hear a story than receive information in any other way. But, telling a funny story will not make the cut. Stories that illustrate your point must be clear. A classic example is the simply brilliant commencement speech made by Steve Jobs in 2005 at Stanford. He said, “Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. Just three stories.” Now, each story had a profound message. The audience connected the dots and the task of delivering was accomplished.
Not to forget the elementary point of public speaking; maintain eye contact and stand tall with confidence. You may be a ball of butterflies but there is no need to make it obvious!